One could say that running a restaurant is in Steven Pizzini’s blood. His aunt Ernestine Pizzini Chapa founded Teka Molino in 1938, followed by his father, Herman Pizzini, debuting Taco Hut in 1958. Now the chef is continuing that tradition with the grand opening of Lala’s Gorditas on March 9.
Named after Steven’s grandmother, the tiny eatery at 1600 Roosevelt Ave. quietly opened in late January after making a splash at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference. Now, he is ready to share his family’s recipes with a broader audience.
The menu is labor-intensive, still using the time-honored techniques established at his aunt and father’s restaurants decades ago. Corn is nixtamalized on site, then ground on the same molina designed by Steven’s uncle Eddie for the original Taco Hut.
The resulting masa is then shaped for guacamole cups, bean rolls, puffy tacos, or gorditas overstuffed with ground beef or chicken and lettuce, tomato, crema, and curtido (cabbage slaw). Steven tells CultureMap that he keeps the menu limited due to the size of the place, but he does take care of dessert with flan and a daily variety of cake.
And occasionally, he will add a special to the board. “It’s whatever I feel like cooking,” he jokes.
For Steven, the most rewarding part of opening Lala’s has been seeing the positive response from the community, many of whom are the third or fourth generation San Antonians who patronized his family’s restaurants.
"Food brings up so many memories,” he says. “It’s been gratifying seeing people I haven’t seen in decades.”
Some of that long-time clientele undoubtedly will be crowded around Lala’s six picnic tables this weekend for a day of celebration benefiting the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind. The evening starts with a DJ and a flamenco performance, followed by sets by Jeff Willis, Santiago Jimenez Jr., and Garrett T. Capps. As always for the restaurant, the event is BYOB.